Affordable housing, whether to own or rent, continues to be an issue in South Dundas. It came to the forefront again at the May 25 South Dundas council meeting when council voted down rezoning a property for a mixed commercial and residential development at the edge of an industrial park. The development is needed, but the location inappropriate. Council’s decision was correct, but voting down the rezoning does not absolve council from coming up with a plan to address the need for affordable housing in South Dundas.
House prices have been on a sharp rise over the last five years. The COVID-19 pandemic has not helped matters. Prices for some houses have increased by up to 30 per cent in the past three years – making the dream of home ownership for some just that, a dream.
For renters, the prospect of an affordable place to live in – that is also in good condition – is more of a pipe dream. Supply is not keeping up with demand, and there is little incentive to build more rental units.
Ontario defines low-income housing as being the least expensive of a rental unit that does not exceed 30 per cent of annual household income, or a rent that is at or below the average market rent for a unit in a region. In South Dundas, that affordability price is $672 per month. The municipality has the second-highest rate of low income households in SDG Counties at 19.2 per cent. The average rent in the past year has been well above that affordability definition. This is not only a South Dundas problem though.
According to experts, over one million people have moved to Ontario through immigration to Canada or migration from other provinces, in the past five years. Urban to suburban migration has fueled price increases as much as lower interest rates. Simply put – there are too many people and not enough housing built.
To address this issue in South Dundas there are a few things that can be done. Many municipalities require developers to set aside a certain number of housing units for affordable housing. This is not a requirement in rural subdivision agreements like in South Dundas, but should be. The right kind of rental developments in appropriate locations need to be encouraged. This includes affordable rentals for people across the income spectrum. Some municipalities use Regional Incentive programs for this. It would be a far better use for encouraging housing than using public money for tourism businesses that may fail in the first year of operation.
The housing issue in South Dundas is not improving, even with new subdivisions being built. Addressing housing needs clear policy direction from the municipality to help ensure that everyone has a safe, and an affordable, place to live.